There’s been more than enough written about Munch Plus Music, the unique initiative behind this release, where the Munch Museum, Innovation Norway and Visit Norway collaborated with Norwegian musicians to create music inspired by Edvard Munch’s artwork, so let’s talk about its implications instead.
What we have here is a mainstream, government-sponsored initiative promoting tourism… through black metal? Despite the ‘blackwashing’ many groups have received lately in other media outlets, and the resulting cancellations of concerts and the like, black metal is still a powerful cultural phenomenon, inextricably linked with Norway in popular culture. So much so that black metal tourism, AKA ‘blackpacking’ has become a thing – and the Norwegian government are aware of this. Hence the inclusion of a black metal band in this initiative – alongside a dance music DJ (Matoma), a Tamil Folk collective (9 Grader Nord) and the electro-noir producer Gundelach – is something of a triumph for the genre.
And for 1349, too: despite their being active since 1997 and counting black metal’s “celebrity” drummer, Satyricon’s Frost among their members, they are not the obvious first choice figurehead for Norwegian Black Metal. Dimmu Borgir’s cross-genre popularity and massive stage shows, the aforementioned Satyricon’s collaboration with the National Opera Chorus (not to mention their using a drawing by Munch for the cover art on their last album, 2018’s Deep Calleth Upon Deep), Darkthrone’s genre-defining status or even Mayhem’s longevity all make them valid options, but perhaps it’s 1349’s uncompromising musical stance to only produce fast, extreme “aural hellfire” in the vein of early second-wave black metal bands. It could also be the band’s name, as it reflects a milestone in Norwegian history, the year the black plague reached the country.
Here’s your chance to stream some “Dødskamp.”
Whatever the reason, the result is this: black metal receiving state sponsorship and being celebrated as a valid cultural artifact. The official website even takes the time to cite the Inferno Metal Festival as a suggested tourist destination.
The music itself is worth it, too: initially, 1349’s typical fury is hidden under some very melodic guitar work, but the discordant bass Seidemann lays down below this incongruously gentle passage ascends to the forefront and the ensemble quickly descends into the expected maelstrom that typified releases like Hellfire (2005), Demonoir (2010) and Massive Cauldron of Chaos (2014). Based on this, we can only expect great things from the forthcoming album. Still fast, underscored by Frost’s inhumanly metronomic drumwork, still atmospheric (if any atmosphere can remain after the firestorm they produce) and overlaid by Ravn’s most varied and accomplished vocal performance to date.
The live version of “Atomic Chapel” (off the Demonoir album) is an added bonus: sound reproduction is crisp, clear and amply displays just how effective a well-crafted song can be in a live setting. Tempo and mood shifts are spot-on and Archaos’ handling of what, in black metal circles, could be called showy guitar work is handled masterfully.
A press shot of the men in 1349.
In summation, Dødskamp (grab a copy here) may be a musical tribute to Munch’s Death Struggle (even the translation is direct and to the point, like the music), but it’s also a teasing appetiser for the next chapter in True Norwegian Black Metal.
Dødskamp Track Listing:
02. Atomic Chapel (Live)
Run Rime: 11:57
Release Date: April 5, 2019
Record Label: Season of Mist